By Joseph Santoliquito
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CBS) — March Madness is geared toward the unexpected. Those surprises. The upsets. The kind of magic that La Salle seems to be spinning right before our very eyes.
It looked like the Explorers would blow out No. 4 seed Kansas State, then just like that it looked as if La Salle would blow a huge first-half lead. But the Explorers found a way to win, 63-61, to advance to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament against No. 12 seed Mississippi on Sunday.
La Salle’s Jerrell Wright supplied the magic for the Explorers at the Sprint Center Friday afternoon. He finished with a game-high 21 points, including hitting three of four free throws in the last :30 of the game.
Wright was 6-for-6 from the floor and 9 of 10 on the line. Ramon Galloway closed with 19 points, while La Salle’s defense held Kansas State to 37-percent shooting in the first half (11 for 29).
“As good as we were in the first half, Kansas State was that good in the second half,” La Salle coach John Giannini said. “We didn’t turn it over. We got some decent shots. Their big man blocked a lot of them. It was tough to get a good look, but at least we didn’t turn it over. The other thing that was huge was Jerrell Wright. He made some gigantic free throws.”
La Salle burst out to an early 6-0 lead and anything the Explorers wanted to do, they did. La Salle opened the lead to 28-13 on 11 of 20 shooting.
Kansas State didn’t reach double figures until about 10 minutes left in the half. K-State made a mere 37-percent from the floor and a horrid 12-percent from three-point range in the first half (1-for-8).
Then it was hang on time.
“Sometimes our quickness takes people by surprise, and we had just enough cushion to last,” Giannini said.
Wright was transcendent. He averaged 10.4 points a game this season and had that by halftime.
“There was a lot of pressure, but Jerrell’s poise and focus carried the day,” Giannini said. “We just kept challenging our guys defensively and kept saying that we’d be all right, and just get out defense back, we’d win this game.”
With 7:12 left in the game, Rodney McGruder’s layup gave K-State its first lead of the game, 57-56. The Wildcats converted 12 of their first 17 shots in the second half—a complete turnaround from the first half.
It was Wright that tied the game at 60-60 of a pair of free throws with 4:18 on the clock. Kansas State never scored a basket in the final 4:51.
Giannini refused to say this is gravy time, considering many didn’t think they would get this far.
“We’re not playing with house money,” Giannini said. “We’re playing to win every game. We wanted to be one of those teams do well. People want o be where we are right now, and I’m telling you, everyone is good.”
La Salle is showing the rest of the country that they are—and they are.
Kallas: If Peyton Wants Another Ring, It's Time To Leave IndyIf Peyton Manning wants to win another Super Bowl, why stay with the Colts?
Isn’t this the real question? Just three days before the $28 million bonus payment is due to Peyton, why aren’t people looking at it from this angle? If you’re keeping score at home, the Super Bowl-winning list reads: arch-rival Tom Brady with three, little brother Eli Manning with two and big brother Peyton with one.
How is Peyton going to climb up that list?
The bottom line is that the only way that Peyton has a chance to win another Super Bowl (or more) is to leave Indianapolis.
Well, the reasons to stay are pretty obvious: money and comfort level. By giving Peyton his $28 million bonus on March 8, owner Jim Irsay will prove his “love” for Peyton. But with Andrew Luck on the immediate horizon, why would he do that? Loyalty? Maybe. According to Irsay, he and Peyton have met a number of times. But the decision (a “very difficult one,” according to Irsay) hasn’t been (only publicly?) made yet. His comfort level as a dome quarterback and living legend-status in Indianapolis are also great reasons to stay there.
If Peyton gets his money and stays, he will be even richer than he already is and will continue his march to unbelievable regular-season records. You know the regular-season numbers: 141-67, 54,828 yards, 399 TD passes, only 198 interceptions, four regular season MVP awards (more than anyone) and on and on and on.
But you also know the postseason records: 9-10 in playoff games, 1-1 in the Super Bowl, one Super Bowl MVP (compared to two for both Brady and Eli).
CAN HE WIN ANOTHER SUPER BOWL IN INDIANAPOLIS?
Doing so will be virtually impossible. While the Colts defense has always lagged behind the Colts offense, it was really bad this past year. The Colts gave up 430 points this year (26.9 per game, 28th in the league). The defense was 25th in yards allowed, and it only picked off eight passes the whole season. Awful numbers, especially if you look at them from a potential Super Bowl-winning perspective.
So which came first: a terrible team because of no Peyton or a terrible defense? Well obviously Manning, out for the season, came first. But the Colts defense has some big holes. Weak in the secondary, and apparently switching to a 3-4 defense under new head coach Chuck Pagano and new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, there will certainly be an adjustment period, to say the least.
Offensively, who will Peyton throw the ball to? Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez are both unrestricted free agents. While we all would agree that Peyton, if healthy, can lead a team to victory with almost any group of receivers, even he has his favorites.
Plus, the Colts have already cleaned house on the coaching staff (head coach, defensive coordinator) and upstairs (no more Chris and Bill Polian).
All of this would point to a new QB and the savings of many millions for Irsay. It may be a public relations nightmare at first, but why risk your future on a QB, as great as he is, whose health and throwing ability are, apparently, still questionable?
If Peyton comes back to the Colts and is healthy and can throw, most of us would agree that he is great enough to give the Colts an excellent chance at making the playoffs.
But a Super Bowl-winning team?
Hard to believe that could happen.
BUT CAN HE ACTUALLY WIN A SUPER BOWL SOMEWHERE ELSE?
Another fascinating question. If he were to wind up with one of what are viewed to be the two leading candidates (Miami and Washington) to get his services if he is let go by the Colts, well, that would be a big hill to climb (from non-contender to Super Bowl champion), even for a healthy Peyton.
Even though Washington beat the Super Bowl champion Giants twice this past season, Peyton would be in a brutal division with still, arguably, the fourth most talented team in the division (Giants, Eagles and the Cowboys all are incredibly talented teams).
Competition-wise (and weather-wise), he might be better off in Miami. But even in the AFC East, you have the always incredibly tough Patriots (and that won’t change next year), along with the talented (but up-and-down) Jets and the getting-better Buffalo Bills. Will Peyton be able to go into New England, Buffalo and/or New York late in December and win big games?
Well, that’s a very difficult question to answer.
Well, whatever choices Jim Irsay and, then, Peyton Manning, make, it says here that it is going to be very difficult for Manning to get to two, let alone three, Super Bowl wins. That really seems all that is left for him to accomplish. Every regular season record is great, but to be called the greatest regular season QB ever is almost (but not quite) faint praise.
You can bet that Peyton Manning would like to catch and/or pass both Tom Brady and Eli for the stat that should mean the most to star QBs: Super Bowl wins.
And it says here that reaching that goal cannot happen in Indianapolis.